By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona police officer who shot an unarmed man to death at a Phoenix-area hotel earlier this year pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges on Tuesday.
Officer Philip Mitchell Brailsford, 25, was allowed to remain free without bail by a county judge after entering his plea during a brief hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court, according to a court spokesman.
Brailsford is charged with murder in the fatal shooting in January of Daniel Shaver during a confrontation outside a suburban Mesa, Arizona, hotel room, officials said.
Prosecutors say Brailsford was not justified in using deadly force against Shaver after he responded to a report that a man was pointing a rifle outside a fifth-floor window at the La Quinta Inn.
Shaver, 24, was shot five times by Brailsford during the incident and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Brailsford’s attorney could not immediately reached for comment. He has said the officer believed he acted according to his training.
Attorney Marc Victor, who represents Shaver’s widow, Laney Sweet, unsuccessfully argued in court that the judge set a bond for the officer’s release and treat Brailsford like any other person charged with murder. He said the policeman had “executed” Shaver and was a danger to the community.
Sweet has filed a $35 million wrongful death claim against Mesa, alleging that the officer used excessive force.
The deadly incident marks the latest in what has been a string of shootings by police of unarmed people nationwide, sparking a larger concern about the use of deadly force by law enforcement.
Brailsford, with the Mesa Police Department for more than two years, was one of the officers who set up outside the hotel room and ordered Shaver and a female to come out and crawl toward them.
Shaver was fatally shot when he made a motion with his right hand toward his waistband as he approached officers, prosecutors have said. The female was taken into custody without incident.
Investigators found two pellet guns inside the hotel room, authorities said.
On Tuesday evening, Mesa police said in a statement that Brailsford was told the department has recommended he be fired for his actions and over an "inappropriate etching" on his AR-15 patrol rifle.
A hearing has been scheduled at an undisclosed date to offer him the chance to fight the dismissal, Mesa police spokesman Steve Berry said. He declined to describe the etching.
(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Dan Whitcomb, Cynthia Osterman and Bernard Orr)